Big Head San Diego Style Ale | Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store

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Big Head San Diego Style AleBig Head San Diego Style Ale
81 Ratings
Big Head San Diego Style AleBig Head San Diego Style Ale

Brewed by:
Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store
Michigan, United States

Style: American Imperial IPA

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.00%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
None provided.

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 81 |  Reviews: 78
Photo of Muss42
4.27/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Photo of imperialking
4.5/5  rDev +5.1%

Photo of Beertracker
4.43/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bell's Big Head (San Diego Style Ale) Batch #K8369 pours up with a moderate beigish-tan head that neatly crowns the bright, deep ochre-burnt auburn body. Extremely tight lacing with great head retention. The sweet malty aroma is overlapped by a powerful ripe citrus fruitiness (grapefruit, pommelo, tangerine) from the dry hops with a touch of peppery spiciness overlaying a lovely toasted (biscuit) maltiness. Alcohol is noticeable, but layered with the other characters. Maybe a hint of oxidation is just starting to creep in? The flavor starts off with an incredible toasted caramel sweetness that carries to a defined, marked hop bitterness that delivers a bold, but surprisingly well-balanced finish with a stealthy warmth. This medium-full bodied DIPA has a lovely creaminess with just the perfect amount of carbonation. This one has lost most of its fresh hoppiness in the aroma, but its now layered with malt complexity and drinks like a fine stock ale or barleywine. This is Hopslam taken up a notch!

CHEERS! Beertracker

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Photo of brandoman63
4.5/5  rDev +5.1%

Photo of mikereaser
4.44/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Pours a murky rust color with a 1/4 inch of foam that quickly dissipated to just a layer of fine bubbles

S - strong grapefruit aroma with hints of pine and sweet malt in the background

T - strong grapefruit flavor with a nice peppery pine finish

M/D - wow, this is quite a unique tasting beer. Nice mouthfeel and carbonation. The peppery finish was unsuspected but a nice twist and the hops were very present but not overly bitter.

I wish I could get this one again.

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Photo of koopa
4.4/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle received in a trade with FlandersNed thanks!

Appearance: Pours a dark orange to brownish crimson with a nice 1.5 finger khaki crown that shows good retention and loads of lace!

Smell: HOP BOMB! Wow this one is the definitive edge btw super hoppy double ipa and a barleywine in my humble opinion. Tiny soap note as well.

Taste: Nice malt that isn't too sweet and doesn't come off very caramel like. Loads of herbal hops with a good zing of bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Just right...fairly crisp due to good carbonation, medium bodied, with a lush mouthfeel from the crown.

Drinkability: This one has a high abv but you wouldn't notice by the flavor profile because it has no alcohol presence at all!

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Photo of mothman
3.9/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A big thanks goes out to Mikesgroove for this one!

Poured into Sierra Nevada Tulip Pint Glass

Color is a very hazy over lighter shaded caramel brown. Pours a 1/2 finger beige head. Fairly good retention. Leaves some splattered lace. A little darker colored than most ipas.

Aroma: From the smell, I can definitely notice that it is a Bell's beer that is imitating the west coast. SO far so good. Big hop aroma. Dulled down floral hops mixed with a lot of caramel. The citrus is there, but it hides behind the caramel too much. It kind of has a musky smell to it. 4

Taste: Wow, just like I'd expect from a west coast IPA... BIG hops going on. However, the main difference is that caramel. I have been having a lot of west coast ipas lately and I haven't noticed this much caramel in any of them. Big floral and earthy taste up front. At the end is really where the citrus kicks in. Too much caramel for me.

Mouthfeel: bitter, bitter, and more bitter. A little boozey. Medium bodied, as well as medium level of carbonation. Leaves a sticky hoppy aftertaste. I really want to like the mouthfeel here, but I just can't enjoy it at all. Something went wrong here I think.

Overall, I really enjoyed this beer for the most part. It was a good experiment by bell's and I think they did a good job. I would only drink 1 bottle of this at a time, as the hops really get to you! Thanks Mike for letting me try this one. It was a fun beer!

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Photo of russpowell
4.15/5  rDev -3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Got this from Beertracker, cheers Jeff!

Batch K8369 pours a copper hued amber with 1+ finger of tan head. Above average lacing, all over the opposite of the glass & above average head retention

S: Rindy & citric hops, plus cakeyness

T: Oranges, tangerines & grapefruit up front, with some serious herbal bitterness & a kiss of booze up front. Leafy hops, toffee sweetness, pineapple & along with booze warmth as this warms, I also get some candi sugar dryness, weird. Finishes warming with earthy & leafy hops, plus grapefruit & orange slices

MF: Chewy with fairly vigirous carbonation

Drinks a touch slow, due the boozeyness & complexity. Would love to try this fresh to compare this, but this has held up pretty well

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Photo of GbVDave
4.1/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a DT tulip. Special thanks to FlandersNed for the last minute DLD trade!

Batch # K8369

A: Pours a lively carbonated bright rusty-orange color with a creamy light orange head. Plentiful lace stuck to the glass and some suspended sediment was visible.

S: Big boozy nose of sweet caramel, rum blasted dark fruit, over-ripe tropical fruit, sweet oranges, vanilla frosting, and piney hops.

T: Sweet caramel, alcohol, and citrus dominate while getting a helping hand from piney hops, sweet mushy pineapple, and still more alcohol.

M: Big, sticky, slick, and sweet with a very nice rawness brought on by the plentiful alcohol. The booze and massive hops did a spicy little tapdance all over my mouth!

D: Surprisingly pretty awesome, considering the heft. I didn't want it to end!

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Photo of Sammy
3.75/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I didn't realize it was the equivalent of 4 beers until I finished the last drop. Starts as an English bitter and subtly delivers, I don't know 245 international bitterness units. DIPA in a small 330 ml bottle, what a novelty. Reasonable carbonation, DIPA smell. Full reddish yellow, with lots of white lace.

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Photo of hellbilly
3.7/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

k8369 bottle by way of ucusty...
hazy burnt orange colored pour capped by a soft light tan head which leaves lots of fluffy spotty lace as it retreats.

holy flower shop aroma!... loads of floral hops, grapefruit, grass, cooked orange skin, caramel, light resinous pine and spice with a bit of a boozy burn.

the palate is sweet and buttery to start but turns mean and bitter as it finishes... there's a noticeable ashiness in the flavor combined with notes of spice, rich caramel, pine, grapefruit skin, wood and an earthy sweetness similar to agave or pine sap honey. it finishes really floral and full of alcoholic vapors. there's a long lingering aftertaste of bitter citrus pith which helps to maintain some sort of balance.

the body is certainly full with a smooth luxurious mouth feel before the onslaught of dryness. it's a bit too sticky for me to give it a five rating (but that's far too common for the style) and i'd be hard pressed to drink any more than this... 8/4/7/4/14/3.7

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Photo of rayjay
3.85/5  rDev -10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to imstillthegman for the Secret Santa gift. San Diego style? We shall see; I'm either going to love this beer or it will let me down due to high hopes from the name. I'm hoping for a Frank or Sculpin-like experience...

Bottle conditioning is evident from the cloud of fine haze the last bit of beer made, and the foam rises to a thick, pillowy, fluffy white structure that collapses on itself. A deep and hazy pale beer, resembles Racer 5. I'm sure the generous hopping is to thank for the great head retention and thick lacing.

Definitely tons of hops in the aroma; malt aroma suggests high density wort and lots of carmel malt (but too pale for lots of carmel). Hop aroma is big and pine-like, almost solvent-like.

Tasting it....first, huge bitterness hits like a truck, followed by sweet and thick pale malt first runnings; maybe a bit too thick. More like a Hop 15 style beer with the bit chewy malt body.

The hops win in the end, but I prefer a little less competition from the sugars. Fortunately, big bitterness and aroma finish out the beer for a lingering aftertaste, and the sweetness recedes.

In the end, it's basically 90 Minute IPA with about 4 times the aroma, and probably double the perceived bitterness (hey, that's still pretty damn good).

I drank this beer at about 55°F, but I think it would be better at 40°F to help hide the malt and bump up the drinkability and the refreshment aspect. I'm confident that the hop aroma would still carry through at lower temps.

Great bottle-conditioned mouthfeel, but the sweet sticky sugars take the rating down a half notch or so. Thickness drags down the drinkability a little bit too; whoa, 11% abv?? I though it was like 8 or 9%. No wonder I'm noticing the malt so much!

On one hand, it's not quite as great and refined as the usual San Diego crowd-pleaser, but on the other hand, many barleywines with a lower gravity bog you down with heaviness more than this brew.

A noble effort, and a great and unique beer; can't fool me though, I can tell it's not from CA! Drink it cold (40°F) and you're in for a treat. Cheers!

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Photo of waltonc
4.19/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Very nice golden orange color with a touch of haze. Pours with a big white head, as advertised. One of the cooler looking pours I can remember, so I give this a 5 for appearance.

S: Maybe my nose isn't operating very well tonight, but I'm not getting a strong smell. Could be the Subway Spicy Italian I just had interfering with my olfactories. I just get piney hops.

T: Strong pine and grapefruit hop bomb mania, but like Hop Slam, this is well balanced with strong, sweet malt goodness. I guess I'm having this many months after it was brewed. So the aging and oxidation probably cured it of some of its hop imbalance. I say that deliberately, knowing that hop lovers will not agree with that characterization.

M: Thick body and very well carbonated, sticky and resinous.

D: Pretty good for a high ABV IPA. The name of this beer is not fitting - this is one of my favorite IPAs, and certainly better than any I've had from San Diego.

Thanks to JDV for trading this one to me.

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Photo of ryrust5301
4.08/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - Everything i'd expect out of a double IPA. Dark caramel colored with a head that's a showstopper, as it foamed up to a good size with a pure white color. Thick coating hangs around throughout with a heavy lace.

Smell - Rich rich caramel malts, backed up by grapefruit, orange, and piney hops.

Taste & Mouthfeel - I like my DIPA's on the hoppier side of things. While this one does have its hops, it's definitely on the ubber malty side. It has more of a barleywine feeling than anything. Caramel malts and a sneaky alcohol take it's toll in the mouthfeel, leaving a very bitter tongue in their wake. Orange is present as well, but almost in a candied sort of way. This one has a very large, sweet, sticky, bitter feel to it. Coating and numbing your palate will not be a problem with this one.

Drinkability - This was one I have heard nothing but good things about, and have sought it out for awhile. It didn't quite give me everything I hoped for, but it's pretty damn good. I dropped the drinkability a bit just because I like my DIPA's more on the hop bomb side than the sweet barleywine side. A great brew to sip on this cold new years night while I kick back and watch some bowl games.

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Photo of ShrLSU
4.55/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

The appearence is deep amber color with white sticky lacing. The nose is of piney hops and citrus fruits. There is a slightly sweet and caramel scent as well. The taste is well balanced. It has the nice bitter hop taste but a touch of maltiness in the end. Its slightly syrupy as well. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and medium cabonated. It feels slightly slick on the tongue. Overall drinkability is high. For a beer with such a high ABV it's not as pungent as you'd think. Another winner from Bells!

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Photo of badbeer
4.06/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Nice amber color with a white head that retains very well and leaves tons of sticky lacing. Aroma has grapefruit, tangerines, pine cones, and sap. Very piney flavors, resinous, but lacks some of the other flavors noticed in the nose. A rather bitter beer, but still quite good. Higher carbonation and medium body with a sticky hop finish. An enjoyable beer for sure, and I'm glad to have tried it, but I like HopSlam better. Thanks to hoppymeal for the bottle!

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Photo of Goliath
4.26/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a beautiful slightly hazy amber color with a large two inch off white head. Excellent retention and some great lacing.

The aroma is great. A big hop profile with some nice citrus notes and a touch of spicey hops.

The taste is excellent. A great hop profile with some nice pine notes and a great bitterness on the finish. A slight bit of caramel comes through on the end as well. Very nice.

Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with a low level of carbonation, though it's quite perfect. Slightly syrupy feel as well.

Drinkability is insanely high. For an 11% beer, it's very well hidden. The flavor profile is right on and I'm just really pleased.

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Photo of MasterSki
4.52/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Monsone for trading a bottle of this to me. It's batch K8369 which is apparently from April 2008.

A - Deep golden color, almost like apple juice. Thick white creamy head that dissipates relatively quickly to a nice bubbly lace.

S - Wow - complex. Really sweet citrus; more mandarin orange than grapefruit. There's some other fruit here too - pineapple for sure, maybe cherries too? Hops galore too, of course.

T - Sweet - almost candy-like. Caramel mixed with hop bitterness, plus all the fruit flavors. This is up there with Pliny the Elder in my opinion - why did Bell's discontinue this?

M - Nice alcohol burn - it reminds you that this is one serious brew. Starts out prickly then smooths out on the back palate. Nice consistency, but could have been a little bit more viscous.

D - Doesn't taste like 11%, but probably isn't all that sessionable either. More of a special occasion brew for a nice spicy meal.

Bell's, please bring this back! Offer this one in the summer and Hopslam in the winter or something...

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.44/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thoroughly hazed, bright golden hue, steady slab of creamy white head.

A bouquet of beautiful hop bitterness, loud and pithy, blasting orange, tangerine, grapefruit, & pineapple. Bristling and buzzing with lovely hop aromas.

On the tongue: Smack-tastic! Big, fat throw-down of hop bitterness, then mellow and cool. Full body, almost thick, massive malt, just doing it's best to hold down the fort, but the huge hit of hops are calling the shots. Sticks around and swims in the mouth. Makes a home on the palate. Sits around the house.

Here we have it, a great Midwestern brewery shows they can do the Southern California hop thing just as well as the San Diegoans. Take a bow, Larry & Co.

But, as great as this is, as wonderful a creation as it may's fun to try, but won't replace Two Hearted any time soon. The 11% is starting to get to me...don't need anything this huge all the time. Man, I'm going to be glad to get into some Masala Mama or Surly Furious.
Who says MidWestern brewers can't do hops? No one I'd listen to.

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Photo of hopdog
4.5/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks Derek for the bottles!

Wow, the hops hit my nose as soon as I popped the cap. Poured a deeper and slightly hazy orange color with an averaged sized off white head. Aromas of citrus, fresh pine, and green floral hops. All hops there Baby! Tastes of citrus, melons, caramel, and pine. On the balance scale, this one definitely tips to the hoppy side, which is just fine with me! I never would have guess this was over 11%. Some lacing left on the glass. Nice hoppy burps...

Notes from and tasted on 4/18/08

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Photo of ckeegan04
3.93/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - orangish-brown color with a nice thick light brown head. Very creamy with good retention. Sheets of lace.

S - Strong grapefruit aroma with a strong alcohol smell. Some caramel and toffee sweetness behind it. Alcohol is a little too strong in the nose.

T - A sugary sweetness initially with hints of caramel. A bitter citrus wave overcomes the sweetness quickly. Lots of grapefruit with a little mango as well. Alcohol is present but not overwhelming. A very potent DIPA with just a little too much bitterness without the hop juiciness to balance.

M/D - Medium bodied with a very crisp feel. Good carbonation level. The alcohol is a little too present which knocks the drinkability down a half point.

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Photo of EGledhill
3.43/5  rDev -19.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Big thanks to cpferris for this one. Poured into Hickory Crawdads pint glass.

A. Golden orange body with a fluffy white head with good retention and lacing.

S. Smells of citrusy and floral hops.

T. Holy fucking alcohol burn!!!! I've never drank high test rocket fuel but I'd imagine it would drink like this. The alcohol overpowers this brew. Citrusy hops and a bready taste to it ful then you get kicked in the tastebuds by the alcohol

M. Mouthfeel's pretty good if you can take the alcohol burn. Full, sticky. Almost greasy.

D. I feel almost generous giving it a drinkability of 3. I'm sure if you like droping a shot in your beer then you could drink a ton of this. Personally, this brew is a one and done for me

Overall... If you're looking for an Imperial IPA from Bells, go for a hopslam. Big head is not bad but hopslam ranks supreme for bells. the alcohol made my stomach hurt

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Photo of hopsleeroy
3.85/5  rDev -10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A-Pours cloudy/murky amber with nice white head
S-Matly caramel, grapfefruit-citrus, reminiscent of barleywine with malt forward presence
T-Big caramel malt presence, balanced with grapefruit/citrus, piney bitterness on the back, a little too boozy for overall feel which detracted from flavor
M-Sticky vicous in mouth, really thick for style
D-High alcohol wouldn't keep me coming back but very enjoyable version of DIPA

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4.08/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A fat fuzzy three finger light tan head turns rocky and leaves considerable scattered lace as it fades. Body is deep amber in color. Nose is full of flowery hops that are more on the citrus side, and a hint whiff of alchol. With the initial sip you quickly notice that the hops are not as dynamic on the tongue as the name would suggest. They are more minerally and pine based then preceived from the nose. Alchol is definitely present especially on the back of the tongue. There is a bit of malt presence for balance as it warms. Mouthfeel is actually not overlly bitter and very pleasant. Solid drinkability. But I think Hopslam is a much better double IPA from these guys.

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Photo of CrellMoset
4.45/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of gford217 - thanks! Poured into an Allagash flute.

Appearance: Slightly hazy, orange bodied with yellow highlights, bronze is a good descriptor. Great, huge off-white head with gorgeous speckly lacing. Great looking DIPA.

Aroma: Loads of tropical fruits - strawberries, kiwi, passion fruit - as well as the traditional pineapple/grapefruit one-two combo. Lots of pine and caramel malt too. A wonderfully pungent beer.

Taste: Huge herbal, leafy bitterness, ruby red grapefruit, juicy pineapple, juniper and spruce notes. Plenty of grainy, bready, lightly roasted sweetness, a high note of estery alcohol. Dry, but not too dry, in my opinion.

Mouthfeel: Slick and oily, but the real descriptor here should be "milky." It's wonderfully creamy and even-bodied.

Drinkability: The 11% is hidden expertly, but it's definitely there. This is one huge tasty beer, with a lot of unique and interesting hop flavors and combinations. Recommended if you can ever get your hands on it.

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Big Head San Diego Style Ale from Bell's Brewery - Eccentric Café & General Store
Beer rating: 4.28 out of 5 with 81 ratings